“I tried retirement once,” Oklahoma teacher celebrating half a century of being an educator

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Although Oklahoma is still in the midst of a teacher shortage, Jan Sands isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

“Math’s my passion. It’s my love, so I love being here at Hefner and being able to teach math,” Sands said.

If you look at how long Sands has been teaching, it would go back to the late 1960s.

“50 years. This is my 50th year,” she said.

Sands is 73 years old, but education has been in her bloodline for a very long time.

“My parents were both teachers, and it just seemed the most natural thing in the world to do. It’s just what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said.

Sands has taught at Putnam City Public Schools from the beginning, while she also raised four children as a single mother.

“Math should be fun, and that’s what I want us to learn a lot but I want it to be fun,” she said.

Sands spends her days teaching students and mentoring other educators, including her daughter.

“I kind of resisted teaching because my mom was such an awesome teacher. It seems like it was a big shadow, big shoes to fill,” Julia Tiller said.

Tiller couldn’t help but love the profession. Her younger brother is also a math teacher. Their mother taught them to make learning easy for students.

“It’s always a matter of trying to make things as concrete as possible and then connect it to the abstract,” Sands said.

One of Sands’ gifted and talented students from the 1990s is also now a teacher just down the hallway. Ryan Fair remembers her class and her unconventional exercises.

“I don’t think it was ever a scary thing because it was never called algebra. It was like, ‘Okay, here’s this game with blocks’ and, ‘Oh, by the way, you just did algebra,’” Fair said.

Sands is a teacher who has made a mark on the countless children that have walked into her classroom.

“Teaching is definitely an art form I think, and she is an artist when she comes to it,” Fair said.

And, Sands doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I tried retirement once, and it didn’t work. I missed it too much, so here I am,” she said.

More than a teacher, Sands is a mentor to generations of Oklahomans.

The Putnam City School District just honored Sands this past weekend on her 50th anniversary.

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